11 Nov 2017 - 14:44
Saudi easing of Yemen blockade not enough: UN
United Nations, United States: The Saudi-led coalition is still blocking desperately-needed UN aid deliveries to Yemen despite the re-opening of the port of Aden and of a land border crossing, a UN spokesman said Friday.
"Humanitarian movements into Yemen remain blocked," said Russell Geekie, spokesman for the UN office for the coordination of humanitarian aid OCHA.
"The reopening of the port in Aden is not enough. We need to see the blockade of all the ports lifted, especially Hodeida, for both humanitarians and for commercial imports."
The coalition shut down Yemen's borders on Monday in response to a missile attack by Huthi rebels that was intercepted near Riyadh airport.
UN aid chief Mark Lowcock told the Security Council this week that unless the blockade is lifted, Yemen will face "the largest famine the world has seen for many decades, with millions of victims."
After an outcry from the United Nations, the coalition on Wednesday reopened Aden, which is controlled by pro-Saudi government forces, and on Thursday opened the land crossing at Wadea on the Saudi-Yemen border.
But Geekie said no aid had gone into Aden yet and the reopening of the Wadea crossing did not affect UN operations.
The transport minister of Yemen's internationally recognized government, Murad al-Halimi, said that two airports in the loyalist-held southern cities of Aden and Seiyun would also reopen from Sunday, Yemeni media reported.
He said national carrier Yemenia would resume its flights to and from the two airports, from where it flies to destinations including Amman and Cairo.
The sea port at Hodeida, which is in rebel-held territory, is key to UN aid efforts as it is closest to the majority of people in need.
The coalition accuses rebels of using aid shipments to smuggle in weapons.
Before the blockade, UN aid agencies were delivering food and medicine through Hodeida, Saleef and Aden ports.
"There can be no alternative for all these ports being fully functional and receiving commercial and humanitarian cargo," said the spokesman.
The United Nations has listed Yemen as the world's number one humanitarian crisis, with 17 million people in need of food, seven million of whom are at risk of famine.
More than 2,000 Yemenis have died in a cholera outbreak now affecting nearly one million people.
Saudi Arabia and its allies intervened in neighboring Yemen in March 2015 to push back the Iran-backed Huthi rebels who control the capital Sanaa, and restore the government of Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi to power.